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(photo credit: AP)
Authorities are pursuing charges against 10 more people in the Bernard Madoff financial scandal after the mastermind of one of the biggest financial frauds in history was sentenced to spend the rest of his days behind bars, The Associated Press has learned.
A person familiar with the investigation wouldn't detail what the potential charges would be or say whether the 10 people include Madoff's family or former employees. So far, only Madoff and an accountant accused of failing to make basic auditing checks have been criminally charged in the multibillion-dollar hoax.
In court Monday, the 71-year-old Madoff admitted it was impossible for him to excuse deeds that US District Judge Denny Chin said cost investors $13.2 billion by conservative estimates and $50b. by the estimate Madoff gave his sons in December.
"I don't ask any forgiveness," Madoff told Chin. "Although I may not have intended harm, I did a great deal of harm."
Later, he turned around to look at the victims lining the first row of the gallery.
"I will turn and face you," he said mechanically. "I'm sorry. I know that doesn't help you."
The judge then took his turn.
"This is not just a matter of money," Chin said. "The breach of trust was massive. Investors - individuals, charities, pension funds, institutional clients - were repeatedly lied to, as they were told their monies would be invested in stocks when they were not."
Madoff received the maximum sentence of 150 years in prison for the huge Ponzi scheme run at least since the early 1990s that destroyed the life savings of thousands of people, wrecked charities and shook confidence in the US financial system.
Chin dismissed Madoff's pleas for leniency, noting that Madoff made substantial loans to family members, including moving $15 million of his company's money into his wife's personal accounts as it became clear that the scheme was coming undone.
"I simply do not get the sense that Mr. Madoff has done all that he could or told all that he knows," Chin said.
"Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff's crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but it is instead... one that takes a staggering human toll," he said.
Chin noted the suffering of more than 100 investors - several of whom whooped and cheered in court when he was sentenced - who had urged Madoff be sent to prison for life.
During an interview Tuesday on NBC's Today show, Madoff's lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, said the 150-year sentence levied was unfair.
"The justice system is not built on vengeance and it's not built on symbolism," he said. "One hundred and fifty years is absurd under the guidelines, under the sentencing statutes."
However, Sorkin said he respected the decision.
Madoff, looking thinner than his last court appearance in March, gave no noticeable reaction when the sentence was given.
When nine victims described their pain earlier, Madoff kept his eyes focused ahead, his head slightly bowed. Some openly wept or raised their voices, labeling Madoff a "monster," "a true beast," a "psychopath" and an "evil low-life."
Dominic Ambrosino, a retired jail guard, said losing his life savings had cost him his freedom and he got satisfaction from knowing Madoff will be confined to prison "in much the same way he imprisoned us as well as others."
Tom Fitzmaurice said Madoff had left him financially ruined as he "cheated his victims out of their money so that he and his wife, Ruth, and their two sons could live a life of luxury beyond belief. This life is normally reserved for royalty, not for common thieves."
Carla Hirschhorn said the world she had built with her husband had "crumbled beneath us" when Madoff revealed his fraud to his sons and was arrested the following December morning by FBI agents.
She said since that day, "life has been a living hell. It feels like a nightmare that we can't wake from."
Sheryl Weinstein, a certified accountant, said Madoff had been able to carry out his fraud because he seemed like a normal human being.
"But underneath the facade is a true beast," she said. "He should not be given the opportunity to blend so seamlessly into our society again."
When asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Madoff slowly stood, leaned forward on the defense table and spoke in a monotone for about 10 minutes. At various times, he referred to his monumental fraud as a "problem," "an error of judgment" and "a tragic mistake."
Madoff claimed he and his wife were tormented, saying she "cries herself to sleep every night, knowing all the pain and suffering I have caused."
"I live in a tormented state now, knowing of all the pain and suffering that I have created," he said. "I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren. That's something I will live with for the rest of my life."
His immediate family did not attend the sentencing. But Ruth Madoff - often a target of victims' scorn since her husband's arrest - broke her silence afterward by issuing a statement through her lawyer. She said she, too, had been misled.
"I am embarrassed and ashamed," she said. "Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."
Sorkin added during the NBC interview that there was "nothing anywhere that even suggests that Mrs. Madoff was involved in any way whatsoever."
Prosecutor Lisa Baroni said Madoff deserved a life sentence because he "stole ruthlessly and without remorse."
Madoff, who has been jailed since March, already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary $171b. forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments and $80m. in assets his wife had claimed were hers. The order left her with $2.5m. that couldn't be tied to the fraud.